Chicago Theatre Review
Badfinger – City Winery
Straight up – Badfinger’s Joey Molland plays City Winery
What else can a fan of classic rock do on a Monday night in Chicago except head to City Winery to see Badfinger’s Joey Molland perform the album “Straight Up” in its entirety! Released in 1971 on the Beatles’ Apple Records label produced by George Harrison and Todd Rundgren. George departed halfway through to fly to NYC and arrange The Concert for Bangladesh, (Badfinger played in the rhythm section at the concert). Todd was brought in to finish the album. The Album produced two hit singles “Day After Day” and “Baby Blue”. “Baby Blue” saw its sales jump 3000% in 2013 thanks to the popular TV show Breaking Bad and its creator Vince Gilligan’s decision to use it as the very fitting closing theme, and introducing Badfinger to a whole new generation.
Badfinger’s story is great, tragic and bittersweet. Badfinger ‘s classic lineup was Pete Ham, Tom Evans, Joey Molland and Mike Gibbons. They were the first band to be signed to the Beatles newly formed Apple Records, LTD. Paul McCartney wrote their first single; “Come and Get It” . Their first 3 singles were in the top ten and their career was looking great. George Harrison took a great interest in the band, producing and actually playing in the studio with them. But the Beatles break up was an endless court battle and it took a toll on George and the other Beatles. So they lost interest in Apple Records and all who were signed to them including Badfinger. Badfinger left Apple for Warner Bros. Soon financial problems set in and the death of main songwriter Pete Ham devastated the band. They carried on without Pete but the death of Tom Evans finished the band. A sad ending to such a great band.
With the promise of playing “Straight Up” in its entirety for us, Joey brought a very talented band with him to achieve this goal. First Joey explained the album and how it came to be which was very interesting to us music historians. The opening song “Take it All” sung by his lead guitar player got the band off to a great start. Then they blistered into the rowdy and popular “Baby Blue” sung by Joey, a definite crowd pleaser. They played the songs pretty much in order and true to the original LP with a few exceptions. Joey decided to add an extended guitar solo and jam a little. The band was tight and Joey was lively and at times animated. He told a few short stories about the band and some very cool insights on some of the songs. One story that stuck out was about “Come and Get It”. Tom Evans was interviewed on the radio and was asked about the Beatles input. He said they haven’t done a thing except sign us and they were no help at all. The next day there was a knock on the door. As it opened there stood a stern looking Sir Paul McCartney. He said “Here’s your first hit, learn your part and play it exactly how I recorded it-don’t change a thing-I’ll be back in a week to see if you got it right”.
After finishing the complete album Joey and band played Badfingers big hits from the 1970s. Besides doing a superb job on the “Straight Up” album other highlights were the hard edged “No Matter what” and the beautiful ballad ”Without You”, (a song Harry Nilsson took into the stratosphere), and of course Sir Paul’s “Come and Get It”.
Being raised on a steady diet of the Beatles , the Stones and the Who, it was nice to see the great Joey Molland performing Badfinger –the songs I also grew up on. It was also quite a treat to meet Joey after the show. He’s such a nice cool guy. He even remembered playing in my hometown of Rockford in the early 70’s at the Rockford Armory. Now that was too cool! I am going to call Joey a “Classic Rocker”. He is a true musician with a career that has spanned 5 decades.
It was great to see Joey still performing and I recommend seeing him if the opportunity presents itself.
It was another great intimate show at a great venue City Winery.
Reviewed by Terry Giardina